How To Start A Company in Barcelona

Advice on making the process a whole lot easier.
Ramiro Velasco
Ramiro Velasco
April 30, 2018

We recently shared why Lee moved from London to Barcelona to start up the company but we’ve yet to delve into how he then went on to create We Are Mobile First. In this post, we’ll share the, somewhat complex, process of how to start a company in Barcelona alongside a bit of advice on how we made the process a whole lot easier.

Once Lee had decided to found We Are Mobile First in Barcelona, he went through the usual start up process of creating a business plan, carrying out market analysis, creating a marketing plan and a study of the viability of the project, before searching for investors and forming an economic financial plan. However, he then had to work out how to create a company in Barcelona as a foreigner.

Lee had already founded his first company back in London but he did so under a completely different set of rules and regulations. In London, where he knew both the city and its state processes fairly well, it only took 48 hours to set up his first company and he was able to do everything online. Setting up a business in Spain, however, was a much lengthier and more turbulent process.  

In order to kickstart everything, Lee hired a lawyer in Spain, on the recommendation of a previous client, who could help him from start to finish. However, he found out a couple of months later, when the process had stalled, that the lawyer was based in Málaga-Andalucía, a different autonomous community. Rather than helping the process run smoothly, it hindered it.  

Both Spaniards and foreigners must follow the same procedures for the company constitution in Barcelona and they both have the same fiscal conditions, rights and obligations, with the only difference being that foreigners looking to create a company in the country must obtain the NIE.

The legal procedures that must be followed, when setting up a Limited Company (SL) as someone from outside of Spain, are thus:

Obtain the NIE

Firstly, foreign citizens must obtain the N.I.E. The N.I.E (Número de Identidad de Extranjero) is an identification number for foreigners. Without it, you cannot continue the process.

Get a certificate of your corporate name

This document certifies that your company name doesn’t coincide with an existing one.

Open a bank account

Once you’re in possession of the aforementioned certification, you can open a bank account in the company name, paying in the minimum initial capital of the company, which in the case of a Limited Company is 3,000 euros.

Acquire a provisional NIF

Whilst your NIE confirms your personal identification, the NIF confirms your tax identification. If you wish to carry out fiscal functions, like buying a property, etc, you’ll need a fiscal number. You can apply at the Treasury.

Draft your statutes and sign the deed of incorporation

These statutes refer to the company rules and how you expect it to be governed, including the name, corporate purpose, social capital, registered office, etc. This step is actually much simpler than it seems, as there are established formats in the notaries that are adapted to each type of business.

Pay the Tax for Economic Activities

The Tax for Economic Activities (Impuesto de Actividades Económicas) is a tax that you have to pay to the Government in order to legally begin commercial operations.

Register in the Mercantile Registry

Your business must be requested in the Mercantile Registry within two months of the execution of the company papers by the notary.

Census declaration

In order to be able to start trading, you must inform the Treasury.

Register as autonomous

Once you’ve registered with the aforementioned tax authorities, you’ll need to contact the Spanish Social Security authority to inform them that you’re now self-employed in Spain. Once you’ve registered as being ‘autonomous’, you have to register with the Spanish Social Security under the Special Regime for Autonomous Workers.

Acquire a guestbook

The guestbook is mandatory for all companies, even if you don’t have workers under your charge, and it must be presented before a labour inspection. The inspector will record their findings in the guestbook and there’s a fine if it isn’t present.

Register your business premises

Once you’ve found your premises, you need to obtain a Municipal Opening License (Licencia Municipal de Apertura) from the City Hall Planning Department (Ayuntamiento Departamento de Urbanismo). This license informs the government that you’re going to start commercial activity at that specific address.

Apply for an opening license

This is a municipal license that certifies the adequacy of the planned facilities to the current municipal regulations.

Apply for a contribution account if you’re hiring workers

If you’re planning on hiring workers, you need to register them at the Social Security General Treasury (Tesorería de la Seguridad Social) followed by the National Employment Institute (Instituto Nacional de Empleo).  

Register with the Spanish Agency for Data Protection

You’re obligated to notify the Spanish Data Protection Agency that you’re creating data files. You may also have to divulge how you’re planning on processing the data too.

…Did you manage to take all of that in?!

In the middle of this extensive process, I began collaborating with Lee on some aspects of starting the company. My main task was to finish, or rather re-start, the process of creating the company constitution.

Creating a company in Spain can, at times, be a slow and complicated process full of complex administrative concepts. Managing all of it by ourselves wasn’t going to be simple and, as we got further into the process, we realised it wasn’t a viable option. Fortunately, there were two options for us to explore in order to find a solution to our problem.

Barcelona Activa

Barcelona Activa assists more than 1,000 business projects each year, offering a wide range of services and products to entrepreneurs in order to help make their business dreams come true, from the initial business idea to the start up. They provide advice, training activities, financial support and access to financing, as well as multiple resources that help entrepreneurs set up a high quality sustainable company. In addition, in their incubation environments, they support new businesses in developing and consolidating by allowing them to share a space with other companies.

Everything seemed to indicate that this was the ideal option for us but, unfortunately, it wasn’t viable. It’s mandatory that the development of your business plan must be partially or fully supervised by Barcelona Activa but Lee had already created his.

As a result, we were left with our second option: visiting a business management company.

Business Management Company

Business management companies offer advisory and management services in the fiscal, accounting, labour and financial areas.

Management companies are usually formed of a large team of advisors with experience and training in these aforementioned areas, and are divided into teams with the objective of offering a more specialized and adapted service to the particularities of each of its clients. Many of these companies also have a legal department whose team of lawyers and advisers specialise in different areas of commercial and civil law.

We began working with our chosen business management company in order to create We Are Mobile First. They helped us to get started in a completely customisable and adaptable way. They analyzed the activity and characteristics of the company and advised us on the corporate figure that most suited us. They were also in charge of managing nearly all of the aforementioned necessary procedures so that we didn’t have to worry about them too much, from drafting and revising the statutes to sorting out the registration.

Creating a company in Barcelona, like most places, isn’t just about what you desire. There are so many things to take into consideration, from financial to environmental issues and back again. Having professional advisors that are responsible for managing areas of the business can be hugely helpful as it means you have more time to focus on your work and your clients.

Within a few days of working with the management company, we had obtained the provisional NIF and approximately three weeks later the company was fully constituted.

What at first seemed like an endless headache turned out to be a relatively straightforward process, thanks to the advice we received from our business management team. We continue to work with them both professionally to this day.

If you’re thinking of starting a company in Barcelona, but you aren’t entirely sure, we think you should seriously consider it. Yes, the process can seem mind-boggling but help is out there.

Once you’re set up in this beautiful tech hub of a city, you’ll wonder why you ever doubted it.

(Hero image credit: Rawpixel via Unsplash)